The scenario: You’re having a rollicking night out with a date, and you're drunk on the possibility of heading back home with her. You're also literally drunk. You feel good, and things are going great — that is, until you get back to your place, fumble with your belt buckle, and find, after hours of trying, that you just cannot get erect.
That’s because you have whiskey dick, or the inability to get erect after a night of heavy drinking. Whiskey dick is a real thing: though booze may make you feel like you’re the king of the sex gods, that feeling belies what’s actually going on in your body. Alcohol is a depressant, and it will decrease the blood flow to the penis, says Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, a urologist at Orlando Health. Plus, if your body is trying to get rid of all the booze in your system, it will be focusing on that, not on getting hard.
But because two of life's greatest pleasures are cocktails and orgasms, there’s no need to start a personal prohibition movement. The key is to enjoy the two together responsibly.
“What I always tell guys is that having a drink with someone may make it easier for you when it comes to your game,” says Brahmbatt, “but what they don’t realise is that that drink will make it a little more difficult to end your game in the bedroom.” Here’s what you need to know about whiskey dick — and how to prevent it.
Alcohol Isn’t Always the Enemy
Chances are, you’ve had wild, tipsy sex before without whiskey dick rearing its angry, flaccid head. That’s because in moderate amounts, alcohol can be helpful.
“It acts as a muscle relaxer, which disinhibits [you],” says Dr. Jesse N. Mills, a urologist at the Men’s Clinic at UCLA. “Some men find they perform better with a little bit of alcohol in their system,” since they let go of their inhibitions.
In the event that you did actually get hard despite drinking heavily, it doesn’t mean you’re home free: after drinking heavily, you might find that if you have an orgasm, it’s significantly less pleasurable than usual, says Brahmbhatt.
Just Because It’s Called “Whiskey Dick” Doesn’t Mean Whiskey Is the Only Culprit
Whiskey isn't the only alcoholic beverage to give you erectile dysfunction — and no, that doesn't mean you have a free pass to imbibe fruity rum beverages. The more alcohol you have in your body, the more issues you may have with your sexual performance, and certain beverages contain higher percentages of alcohol by volume, which means you can drink more alcohol without getting as intoxicated. Think about it this way: a single beer has a lower ABV than straight-up whiskey (or a cocktail with multiple shots in it), so imbibing something like a beer or glass of wine is probably a safer bet, Dr. Eric Giesler of Austin Urology, says.
There’s no magic number for how many shots you should have.
It would be convenient if a fairy dickmother flew from the sky and told you this would be the drink that renders you flaccid, but when it comes to figuring out your limit, you're on your own. There’s no hard and fast rule as to how much will actually affect you, either; Mills notes that some men may be able to drink a lot and get erections, as everybody’s threshold is different.
That said, there are some numbers to consider. Moderate drinking, Mills says, counts as 2 drinks a night for a male. Additionally, chugging more than 5 drinks in 2 hours counts as binge drinking, according to the CDC. While, again, there’s no one-size-fits-all rule for what will affect your penis, they are good numbers to consider if you’re being conscious about overdoing. That’s important, because...
Years of drinking can hurt you in the long run
Years of binge-drinking might turn that episode of whiskey dick into a more frequent occurrence. “Chronic alcoholism not only can permanently impact erections, it can change your hormonal [balance],” says Giesler. In fact, a 2007 study revealed that “chronic and persistent alcohol use” led to sexual dysfunction in men, including erectile dysfunction, low sexual desire, and premature ejaculation. A study confirmed that long-term alcohol use can impact male hormones, and another substantiated that it can affect fertility and semen quality.
The more you drink, the lower your testosterone will be and the higher your oestrogen levels will be, Mills explains. That can potentially lead to a slew of unfortunate side effects, like a decreased sex drive.
Don't panic if it happens just once.
If it’s a "whoops, I accidentally got drunk"-type situation, whiskey dick is probably not indicative of a major problem.
If it starts to happen more regularly, however, it’s worth talking to your partner. “If a guy has a stable relationship, [he] should have an open dialogue [like], my erections aren’t what they used to be,” Mills suggests.
That said, if you have a hard time getting erect even without booze — or if even the tiniest bit of alcohol causes a problem —you should consider consulting a doctor. A big red flag that you may have ED? An absence of morning erections, according to Giesler.
It might also mean there are other issues at play here. Your penis actually can tell you quite a bit about your health, and Giesler cautions that erectile issues might be warning signs for potential vascular problems. “The penis is the window into one’s heart,” he says. That poeticism is meant to be taken both literally and figuratively: if there’s any penile issues going on, it’s worth taking a look at your heart health, too.
Ultimately, booze can be "a reward for a day well spent,” says Mills, but “anything over [2 drinks a night regularly] should be called into question, and [men] may have other issues that call them to look to alcohol as a way to relieve stress.” But! “Sex is a great way to release stress, and as long as everybody’s consenting, it’s probably the best way to relieve stress there is.”
This article originally appeared on Men's Health